United Utilities, the owner of the water and electricity networks in north-west England, appointed Philip Green, the former chief executive of the container shipping group P&O Nedlloyd, as its new chief executive yesterday.
Mr Green, who sold P&O Nedlloyd to AP Moeller-Maersk for $3bn (£1.7bn) in August, will succeed John Roberts when he steps down from UU in March after six years as chief executive.
News of the management succession came as UU reported a 20 per cent increase in underlying pre-tax profits to £244m for the first half of the year and put its telecommunications division, Your Communications, up for sale with a £100m price tag. It hopes to find a buyer within 12 months.
Mr Green, 52, has worked for the express delivery firm DHL and Reuters, where he was chief operating officer. This will be his first time working for a heavily regulated utility. He said he was looking forward to the intellectual challenge of running what he described as another service business. "When I joined Reuters I had never worked in financial services before and when I went to P&O Nedlloyd it was the first time I had worked in the container shipping industry."
A keen walker - he has twice climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for charity - Mr Green is fond of taking his senior management on team-building treks. He had been about to embark on a descent of the world's second-longest canyon, Fish River in Namibia, in May with senior P&O Nedlloyd colleagues when the Moeller-Maersk bid interrupted his plans.
Mr Roberts, who prefers scuba diving to trekking, said: "I have been in the utilities sector for 43 years, the past 15 as a chief executive, and now it is time to try something else."
The main driver behind UU's increased profits was its licensed water and electricity utility businesses, which were allowed big price rises this year to help pay for a £3.5bn investment programme over the next five years.
The rival water company AWG, the owner of Anglian Water, warned over rising energy prices, which have risen to £40m this year and represent 13 per cent of its total costs. The company can go back to the industry regulator Ofwat and ask for a review of water charges if energy costs increase further, but AWG's chief executive Johnson Cox said it was nowhere near that point yet. He was speaking as AWG reported a 29 per cent rise in first-half operating profits to £192m.
AWG begins a High Court action against the construction magnate Sir Fraser Morrison on Monday. The company is suing him for £130m, alleging fraudulent misrepresentation when he sold his family construction company to AWG for £263m five years ago. Sir Fraser denies the claim.
Meanwhile, the water regulator Ofwat licensed three new companies yesterday to supply water anywhere in England and Wales as the new era of competition dawned for the industry. Initially, only those consuming more than 50 megalitres of water a year - the equivalent of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools - will be able to shop around for a supplier. Some 2,200 businesses fit this category. They spend about £210m a year and range from big industrial plants to NHS Trusts. One of the three newly licensed suppliers is a new entrant, Aquavitae.Reuse content